Anti-fashion as fashion

November 13, 2010

Punk music evolved from more than just an economic down turn. Tricia Henry Young goes beyond the view of punk as response to “harsh economic conditions” (Young p.66). She explains the social conditions taking place, offering an in depth look of the birth of one of punk’s most influential bands: The Sex Pistols. According to Young, unemployment rates in 1975, was one of the highest since England’s participation in World War II (Young p.68). She goes on to explain

“Working-class white youths were hit particularly hard by the bleak economic situation. When they finished high school, if they did, the either could not find work or were doomed to jobs which they found unbearably boring and which offered no creative challenge and very little pay. (Young 66)”

This fostered the feeling of “no future” in the youths of England. There was a feeling of anger towards institutions and as youths found themselves pressured to find success in a stagnant 70’s economy, the anger increased. What an interesting reaction to the social phenomena at the time. From a sociological perspective, the origins of punk is worth examining. Young says “Never in the history of rock have the doctrines of anarchy and nihilism been preached with such urgency.”

On the development of fashion, Young notes that it was used to distinguish groups since the 1950’s. The idea behind the outrageous apparel was to shock the public. Even though David Bowie’s music was different to The Sex Pistols, the fashion was equally as shocking. Young notes that Johnny Rotten bought a brand new shirt, took it home, shredded it, pieced it together with staples and safety pins, and then wore it.

White power logos and swastika’s were also popular amongst punk fans.  Young and John Savage have stated, despite the white supremicist look, no racial undertones exited in the fashion. It was simply a method of reminding the public of what they’ve done.  Personally, the fashion is offensive, (and maybe it was intended to be that way in concordance with the shock factor) what’s the point in wearing it if everyone got the wrong message from it?  As savage said “they were being obnoxious and outrageous.”

Despite the racist blur, punk artists were inspired by West Indian black music (Reggae).

The Clash had seen how Reggae had acted as a soundtrack for social resistance at the Notting Hill Carnival and, with their use of drop-out and stenciled slogans, they were attempting to create their own white Rasta in Punk- a new cultural resistance. (Savage 238)

These readings were all very long, but informative. I would never think punk incorporated aspects of Reggae in their form. I should have read Young’s article first to offer some background and history to the rest of readings. I have more of an appreciation for the form after reading about how organic it all started. I like constructive venting. Maybe Sid Vicious’ cutting was a bit over the top, but the essence of  the music in context of what occurred during the era is phenomenal.

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9 Responses to “Anti-fashion as fashion”

  1.   jstrick Says:

    Good comment on how fashion was used to distinguish groups. Both Bowie and the Sex Pistols used fashion to shock and create interest. Fashion says so much about a person or a group, schools institute uniforms in order to make everyone look exactly the same. They try to work against the notion of distinguishing oneself as an individual, which is exactly what Bowie and the Sex Pistols did with their fashion choices: they proved they were unique.

  2.   karina Says:

    They indeed proved uniqueness. But it was just a bit too extreme. Although the idea pursued the extreme, in one of the articles they spoke of safety pins being forced through body parts. To me that’s pain, not fashion.

    Thanks for commenting =)

  3.   dperry100 Says:

    The whole genre of the Punk revolution amazes me. Weather it is their lyrics, sound or fashion, these kids just wanted to have their own voice. One of my favorite quotes from Jon Savage’s article was (when he was referring to their ripped up t-shirts and White Power logos), “it was offensive and they meant to be offensive…I don’t think they were exceptionally racist: they were being obnoxious and outrageous.”

    The whole idea of this movement is pure shock value. They wanted you to be uncomfortable and forget your issues….just listen. I have to appreciate this. Although many people did get the wrong message from their appearance, they most likely never broke the surface to understand where these kids were coming from. Heck, there was a whole revolution where parents thought that shows such as: Barney and Teletubbies were promoting gay pride-simply based on the fact they were the color purple (a gay pride color). They even saw that Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street or, Sponge Bob and Patrick were lovers.

    People will see what they want to see. It’s up to us to learn to look below the surface and understand the true meaning.

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